History of Thanksgiving

The History of Thanksgiving

A holiday almost unique to the United States of America is Thanksgiving. A day of family, friendship, and food, it is celebrated in late November. The meaning of the holiday is intertwined in the earliest days of the country, and has changed slightly throughout the years, but has never lost its original purpose.

Thanksgiving has its origins in the 17th century, in one of the earliest North American colonies. The pilgrims at Plymouth had a difficult first year. It took painful time and assistance from local native tribes for them to start having enough of a handle on the agriculture and environment. So it was with a large festival that they closed out the harvest season of 1621, a three day feast that both settlers and natives attended.

For 300 years since that first celebration, there have been varying ones. Presidents regularly would announce a day, usually the end of November, as a national day of thanks and contemplation. The day would not find itself nailed to a specific celebration time until FDR. There, a controversy involving the president placing the holiday earlier in the month in an attempt to improve Christmas shopping led to a resolution placing Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in each month.

The holiday is a celebration that usually alternates between the celebration of family and friends, and a solemn remembrance of the good of the year before. Large feasts are common, often with extended families gathering to a single location for a celebration.

As a familiar and popular holiday, Thanksgiving has very well-known symbols and meanings. The first to note is the turkey, of course. As a large food that had become popular in England just before the time of the colonies, it was a natural choice for the food, and became a common choice until it inevitably became inextricably connected to the holiday.

Harvest symbols in general are common. Pumpkins, harvest cornucopias, corn stalks and autumn leaves are all images that are used in Thanksgiving decorations. The main feeling is that since this is a holiday that would correspond with a harvest celebration in older days, the aesthetic should be of the harvest as well.

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